Regional leaders meet in Congo Brazzaville to discuss DRC elections
Several heads of state from southern and central Africa are due to meet in Congo Brazzaville this evening. The delayed elections in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are expected to top the agenda.
With three days until the presidential elections in the DRC, Brazzaville is concerned by the risk of post-election violence and the potential fall-out for the wider region.
“I want to send a message of appeasement to all actors in the electoral process in the DRC,” President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville and the meeting host said.
Five heads of state have confirmed they will participate, according to the Congolese minister of foreign affairs.
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa will attend with Namibian president Hage Geingob who also heads the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu, who heads the SADC’s defence and security arm, will also be present along with his Botswanan counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi.
President João Lourenço of Angola, which shares a 2,500 kilometre border with the DRC, will also be present.
Rwanda and Uganda plan to send their ministers of foreign affairs.
What remains unclear is whether DRC’s president Joseph Kabila will turn up, or if he plans to send a representative. Kabila’s diplomatic adviser, Barnabas Kikaya, complained that his country was only formally invited yesterday afternoon.
"A summit of this magnitude cannot be improvised,” Kikaya told RFI.
Mistrust and concern
Even before the summit begins, its preparation reflects a climate of mistrust and concern between the countries of the region according to one diplomat speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"The campaign sparked some violence and the postponement of the polls also created trouble," the diplomat added.
Jean-Claude Gakosso , Congo Brazzaville’s minister of foreign affairs, said he wants to extend a fraternal hand to his larger neighbour while respecting its sovereignty.
Growing concern over the potential for violence in the DRC elections is the driving force behind today’s summit. Western governments that are anxious not to appear to be interfering in African affairs are expected to watch today’s proceedings.
For opposition candidates in the DRC, today’s meeting is welcome if it goes some way to ensuring credible, democratic and independent elections.
"The Congolese people are asking for help because we are living under the rampant dictatorship of Mr. Kabila. We think these heads of state will take the misery endured by the Congolese people into account,” Martin Fayulu, presidential candidate for the opposition Lamuka party told RFI.